Education beyond 16
The information on this page is for families in England only. I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
A young person with special educational needs may need particular support as they plan for the next stage of their education or for moving into adulthood. The SEN system places particular focus on helping young people above 16 prepare for their future.
Schools must include preparation for adult life in the curriculum and provide independent career advice to young people from age 13 onwards. This includes advice tailored to the needs of young people with SEN and disabilities. Planning should start early and young people should be at the centre of the process.
For pupils with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, preparation for adulthood must start when the plan is reviewed in year 9 (age 13/14) and continue every year after that. This should focus on what your child will need to support their move into adult life, including further education, employment, independent living, relationships and staying healthy.
What are my child's options after they turn 16?
Your child can leave school at the end of the school year in which they turn 16 (normally the end of year 11), but this does not mean the end of education. All young people are now expected to stay in some kind of education or training until they are 18. This can be combined with paid or voluntary work.
Your child could:
- stay on at their school or in another school
- go to a further education college (mainstream or specialist)
- do an apprenticeship http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/
- do a programme of training and work experience
Mainstream colleges must support students with SEN in a similar way to schools do. This includes doing everything they can to identify the needs of students with SEN and putting in place the help they need through SEN support. There should be a named person in charge of support for students with SEN. Students who need more help than the college could normally provide may need an EHC needs assessment and an EHC plan.
An EHC plan does not have to end when your child leaves school. Your child can continue to have a plan up to age 25 as long as they still have SEN and stay in some kind of education or training.
If your child's statement has ended, or they never had a statement, you or your child will be able to ask the local authority to do an EHC needs assessment to decide if they need an EHC plan.
Young people and the right to decide
Once they are over 16 your child becomes a "young person." This gives them the right to make their own decisions about their support, including the right to appeal to tribunal, control a personal budget and decide where they want to be educated. The local authority must make sure independent information, advice and support is available to help young people give their views and make decisions.
Your child may still want your support to make decisions, and some young people will need their parents to continue to make decisions on their behalf if they are not able to make decisions for themselves.
If your child is aged 19-25, you can read our factsheet Extra help in education for 19-25-year olds - England [PDF]
Read our information about education in Wales.
In Scotland, the system of support for children with additional support needs is called additional support for learning. You can read more about it on the Enquire website.
Call our helpline
Any questions about support at school? How to get an EHC plan? What kind of school is best for my child? Call our freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 and talk to one of our education advisers.